A film to mark the 60th anniversary of the first successful attempt at the summit of Mount Everest, BEYOND THE EDGE is an effective and fresh docudrama fusing archival footage, re-enactments, audio interviews and 3D techniques to breathe new life and depth into this well known piece of history.
“It was only 60 years ago but it was a completely different world… it was a romantic quest” is the opening line of this film about Colonel John Hunt’s expedition, a bid to reach the top of the world that was part of a race between teams from all over Europe and America. Unsuccessful attempts had been made since the 1920s, and further missions were hindered by WWII. The 1953 British expedition included two men who would become the first ever to reach the summit, a “gung-ho” beekeeper from New Zealand, Edmund Hillary, and an expert Nepalese Sherpa, Tenzing Norgay.
BEYOND THE EDGE skilfully weaves the personal stories of these two very different men with plenty of historical and scientific detail to give a full picture of the expedition. It offers a vivid insight into the treacherous obstacles the men had to face, and moreover what gave them the personal drive to face so much adversity to reach the top.
Often re-enactments in docudramas can look cheaply produced and unconvincing but BEYOND THE EDGE manages to avoid this. Filmed on location on Everest and in New Zealand and using talented actors (with remarkable similarities to their real-life counterparts), it has a weighty production value worthy of the story itself (not to mention some stunning 3D cinematography).
We gain a true understanding of the scale of Everest and the conditions the mountaineers were subjected to in ways that other films of this genre are often unable to convey. The use of some incredible archive footage and audio recordings of Hillary, other climbers and relatives of those on the team all combine with the new footage to give a rich and thorough portrait of the mission.
Today Everest is busy with hundreds of climbers each year, but in the early 1950s it was a very different place. In previous attempts there had been 13 deaths without anyone reaching the top (and coming back). It is this fact that provides the real human core of the story. It was truly a quest into the unknown, akin to the voyages of Christopher Columbus and James Cook. The notion of a journey into the unknown is of course one that lends itself well to cinema, awakening powerful ideas in us all. BEYOND THE EDGE succeeds in conveying these ideas with a smart, lean, entertaining and breathtaking account of one of man’s finest feats.